KARACHI - Mental health issues have become a serious threat to public health, says an expert.

“Depression is the primary cause of disability and ill health worldwide. Depression is more common among women. Every person is required to talk about his or her mental problems. One’s socialization plays pivotal role in reducing risk of mental disorders,” Prof Dr Uzma Ali, director of the Institute of Clinical Psychology at the University of Karachi, and Vice President of Pakistan Council of Clinical Psychology, stated this while delivering a lecture at the 42nd public awareness seminar on "Common Mental Health Problems: An Awareness about Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Approaches," at the seminar room of Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD), International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi (UoK) here on Friday.

PCMD, University of Karachi and Virtual Education Project Pakistan (VEPP) jointly organised the seminar.

Prof. Uzma said that WHO defined mental health as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” (WHO, 2014). She said that mental health professionals should focus on wellbeing and public mental health . She said that citizens have the potential to develop mental health problems, no matter how old they are, whether they are male or female, rich or poor. Quoting the reference from WHO (2017), she said depression was the leading cause of disability, if it can be treated successfully, individual’s general health and quality of life could be improved.

She said that depression also caused physical health problems, including hypertension and heart disease. Citizens with other physical health problems are also more susceptible to depression, she added.

She said that anxiety disorders are the most common types of mental illness, in which the patient has a severe fear or anxiety, which is linked to certain objects or situations. Some other cases of anxiety disorders include specific phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety, generalised anxiety.

Prof Uzma said that some signs and symptoms included withdrawing from people or activities they would normally enjoy, sleeping or eating too much or too little, feeling as if nothing matters, consistently low energy, using drugs more than normal, confusion, not being able to complete standard tasks, such as getting to work or cooking a meal, and thinking of harming one's self or others.

A few tips of being healthy, that experts suggest, included healthy lifestyle, socialization, daily exercise, adequate sleep, gratitude and healthy diet, she said. Medications, self help, psychotherapy and counselling are some of important treatment procedures.